European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (RECJ)
Susan Denham, new Chief Justice of Ireland PDF Print E-mail

Mrs Justice Susan Denham has been appointed as new Chief Justice of Ireland. She made the constitutional declaration on July 25th , 2011 in the presence of President Mary McAleese, the Prime Minister Kenny, the Attorney General and the Minister for Justice. In a statement issued through the Courts Service, Mrs Denham said "the time has now come to develop a Judicial Council in Ireland, to support the Judiciary in their difficult task, whilst providing assurance to the public that all judges maintain our traditional high judicial standards."

As Chief Justice, Susan Denham will chair the Courts Service Board.

 
2017 EU Justice Scoreboard PDF Print E-mail

The European Commissioner for Justice and Consumers Ms. Vera Jourova presented the 2017 EU Justice Scoreboard on Monday 10th April. eu_justice_scoreboard_2017

According to the Commission this 5th edition of the EU Justice Scoreboard confirms that effective justice systems are essential to build trust in a business and investment-friendly environment in the single market. Ms Jourova therefore encourages Member States to ensure that any justice reform respects the rule of law and judicial independence as this is key for citizens and businesses to fully enjoy their rights. An independent and well-functioning justice system is a fundamental pillar of every democracy.

As with previous editions the ENCJ and its Members collaborated with the European Commission on the Scorebaord specificially in the chapter dealing with Judicial Independence.

 
Statement by the Executive Board on the 60th anniversary of the Treaties of Rome PDF Print E-mail

Brussels, 25th March 2017

On the day that the European Union is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Treaties of Rome, the ENCJ, which unites the Councils for the Judiciary and similar autonomous bodies from the EU Members States, would like to reiterate the following:

The rule of law is at the core of the European Union. It is one of the fundamental values upon which the EU is founded, together with democracy and fundamental rights. These common values have been debated and settled in legislations and laws, enabling peaceful cooperation for the last 60 years. Respect for the rule of law is a prerequisite for the protection of all fundamental values listed in the Treaties, including democracy and fundamental rights.

To uphold and protect the rule of law is a responsibility for both the judiciary and other state powers. The ENCJ calls on the Member States to respect fair and impartial courts, as the key institutions of an independent judiciary.

For the effective implementation of the rule of law, independent and accountable justice systems are needed. The ENCJ strongly believes that today the network is of vital importance to the further development of judiciaries in Europe. The ENCJ will continue its efforts to promote effective judicial systems in terms of efficiency, quality, independence and accountability for the benefit of all.

 
Public consultation on electronic evidence PDF Print E-mail
The European Commission has recently published a public consultation with an aim to collect current practices in cross-border electronic evidence in the Member States. This is the link to the relevant page.
The objective of the Commission is to gather input from a broad range of interested stakeholders, including public authorities, judges and. The questionnaire (attached, but it is better to fill it in online)  can be filled in by judicial authorities and/or individual judges and prosecutors. Please disseminate among the relevant stakeholders in your judiciary.
The public consultation is open till 27 October 2017.

The European Commission has recently published a public consultation with an aim to collect current practices in cross-border electronic evidence in the Member States. This is the link to the relevant page. 
The objective of the Commission is to gather input from a broad range of interested stakeholders, including public authorities, judges, prosecutors, international organisations, private companies, professional and business associations, civil society, academics and the general public. 

The public consultation is open till 27 October 2017.

 
Statement by the Executive Board of the ENCJ on Poland - 17 July 2017 PDF Print E-mail
The Executive Board of the ENCJ is greatly dismayed to learn that both the lower and the upper house of the Polish Parliament last week approved two reforms which have been the subject of trenchant criticism over the past year. Furthermore, also last week a draft law was introduced in Parliament  that affects the composition of the Supreme Court.
The first law which has been approved is the reform of the Polish Judges’ Council. This reform was analysed by the Executive Board of the ENCJ on 30 January 2017, when it was pointed out that there had been no meaningful consultation with the Polish Judges’ Council; that this reform involves termination of the mandate of the Polish Judges’ Council’s members; that the appointment of the judicial members of the Judges’ Council by Parliament is not in line with the ENCJ’s standards and that the establishment of two assemblies within the Polish Judges’ Council (the first one formed by the 15 judges appointed by Parliament and the second one including six members from the Polish Parliament, the Minister of Justice, a representative of the Head of State, the President of the Supreme Court and the President of the High Administrative Court) , allied with a requirement that any resolution by the Judges’ Council has to be adopted by both assemblies sitting separately, gives a substantial role to politicians in the selection and appointment of judges.
The second law approved by Parliament gives the Minister of Justice the power to dismiss court presidents and substitute them within the next six months after the entering into force of this new law.
These laws will inevitably involve an erosion in judicial independence with an equally inevitable impact on the Rule of Law.
So, too, the draft law introduced on  12th July which involves the dissolution of the current Supreme Court by imposing retirement on its members and giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to designate those judges who shall remain in active service
The ENCJ’s Executive Board considers that this is a very grave situation.
Indeed, at the ENCJ’s recent General Assembly in June 2017, the Paris Declaration included this statement:
“The developments and planned judicial reform in Poland continue to raise serious concern as they could seriously endanger the separation of powers which is vital to the maintenance of the Rule of Law. The ENCJ reiterates that a key requirement for maintaining and enhancing mutual trust between judicial authorities in the EU, as a basis for mutual recognition, is the independence, quality and efficiency of each of the judicial systems and respect in every state for the Rule of Law.“
So serious are the concerns about the developments in Poland that Councils for the Judiciaries across Europe have echoed these sentiments over the past few months. Specifically, statements have been made by:
Conseil Superieur de la Justice Belgium
Raad voor de rechtspraak, Netherlands
Supreme Judicial Council, Bulgaria
Conselho Superior da Magistratura, Portugal
Državno Sudbeno Vijeće, Croatia
Consiliul Superior al Magistraturii, Romania
Association of Council of State Judges, Greece Sudna Rada, Slovakia
Association of Judges of Ireland
Sodni Svet, Slovenia
Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura, Italy
Consejo General del Poder Judicial , Spain
Tieslietu Padome, Latvia
Judges' Council of England and Wales
Teiseju taryba, Lithuania
Judges' Council of Scotland
It is imperative that judicial independence is respected by governments. A democratic system based on the Rule of Law can only properly function if judges’ independence is safeguarded. Furthermore, as made clear in the Paris Declaration and in an earlier statement issued by the ENCJ’s Executive Board on 26 April 2017, judicial independence is critically important in maintaining and enhancing mutual trust between judicial authorities in the EU. Judicial independence also plays a central and indispensable role in ensuring respect for EU law.
Brussels, 17 July 2017

The first law which has been approved is the reform of the Polish Judges’ Council. This reform was analysed by the Executive Board of the ENCJ on 30 January 2017, when it was pointed out that there had been no meaningful consultation with the Polish Judges’ Council; that this reform involves termination of the mandate of the Polish Judges’ Council’s members; that the appointment of the judicial members of the Judges’ Council by Parliament is not in line with the ENCJ’s standards and that the establishment of two assemblies within the Polish Judges’ Council (the first one formed by the 15 judges appointed by Parliament and the second one including six members from the Polish Parliament, the Minister of Justice, a representative of the Head of State, the President of the Supreme Court and the President of the High Administrative Court), allied with a requirement that any resolution by the Judges’ Council has to be adopted by both assemblies sitting separately, gives a substantial role to politicians in the selection and appointment of judges.

The second law approved by Parliament gives the Minister of Justice the power to dismiss court presidents and substitute them within the next six months after the entering into force of this new law.

These laws will inevitably involve an erosion in judicial independence with an equally inevitable impact on the Rule of Law. So, too, the draft law introduced on  12th July which involves the dissolution of the current Supreme Court by imposing retirement on its members and giving the Minister of Justice the discretionary power to designate those judges who shall remain in active service.

The ENCJ’s Executive Board considers that this is a very grave situation.  

Indeed, at the ENCJ’s recent General Assembly in June 2017, the Paris Declaration included this statement:

“The developments and planned judicial reform in Poland continue to raise serious concern as they could seriously endanger the separation of powers which is vital to the maintenance of the Rule of Law. The ENCJ reiterates that a key requirement for maintaining and enhancing mutual trust between judicial authorities in the EU, as a basis for mutual recognition, is the independence, quality and efficiency of each of the judicial systems and respect in every state for the Rule of Law.“ 

So serious are the concerns about the developments in Poland that Councils for the Judiciaries across Europe have echoed these sentiments over the past few months. Specifically, statements have been made by: 

Conseil Superieur de la Justice Belgium

Supreme Judicial Council, Bulgaria

Državno Sudbeno Vijeće, Croatia

  Association of Judges and Prosecutors, Greece

Association of Council of State Judges, Greece

Association of Judges of Ireland

Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura, Italy

Tieslietu Padome, Latvia

Teiseju taryba, Lithuania

Raad voor de rechtspraak, Netherlands

Conselho Superior da Magistratura, Portugal

Consiliul Superior al Magistraturii, Romania

Sudna Rada, Slovakia

Sodni Svet, Slovenia

Consejo General del Poder Judicial , Spain

Judges' Council of England and Wales

Judges’Council of Northern Ireland

Judicial Council of Scotland

It is imperative that judicial independence is respected by governments. A democratic system based on the Rule of Law can only properly function if judges’ independence is safeguarded. Furthermore, as made clear in the Paris Declaration and in an earlier statement issued by the ENCJ’s Executive Board on 26 April 2017, judicial independence is critically important in maintaining and enhancing mutual trust between judicial authorities in the EU. Judicial independence also plays a central and indispensable role in ensuring respect for EU law.

pdf version of the statement

On 20 July 2017 the ENCJ President was interviewd by a Polish television channel (TVN). 

Reactions by other organisations

Statement by the CCJE Bureau

Letter CCBE President

Letter SG CoE Jagland

Statement by MEDEL

Statement President Venice Commission

Reaction European Commission 19 July

Letter EAJ to President Duda

Press release European Commission 26 July 2017

 


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